My bike is too big: What can I do?

Hi Lee,

Boy I sure wish I’d seen your video on bike sizing before I got my new bike!! Just recently discovered your great videos and after spending for me a bunch on a new bike, I think I now know why it doesn’t thrill me quite as much as I hoped.

I waited forever and finally got my new Commencal Meta TR 29 Ride in a medium. Reach number is 465. I’m 5’ 9.5” based on your numbers, the Small at 440 would be way better.

Dang!! After almost 20 years of riding my old hardtail, I feel like I totally screwed up. What the heck do I do now? Especially after waiting forever on this bike I feel crushed! Definitely don’t trust manufacturer guidelines!!! At one point they said I was between a medium and LARGE! I couldn’t put my finger on it, but felt like it was not right.

Guess I need to come to one of your ride clinics, maybe that will help me get more out of it? Anyway, thanks for the great videos!

– John J. in Highlands Ranch, CO

Hi John!

I’m sorry man. This is happening to more and more people, which is why we’ve been making those videos. For those who haven’t seen them, here they are:

Next week we’re publishing a video on handlebar width.

What you can do:

– Install the shortest stem you can find. 30-35mm.

– Install bars with extra setback (horizontal distance from the stem clamp to the grips). I use and recommend SQlab 30X 16° bars. They have extra backsweep, which is good for your shoulders and reduces the length of your cockpit.

– Dial in your mobility and skills. This is always a great idea, but a too-long bike puts an even bigger premium on MTB kung fu. I can help you via a class: either private or public. Public classes in Boulder/Denver will start later this spring (they will be posted here). We can rock a private any time the weather is good. That’s ideal from a learning standpoint.

– There also tweaks you can make in your riding style, which I’ll cover if we do a private class together. For example: Since you have less range of motion with your arms, you can’t make very big angles, so the solution (if you have the skills) is to do less rolling and more jumping.

A note for everyone else:

1) Do not trust the bike maker’s size charts!

2) For an easy way to estimate a good frame reach for you, see the first video above.

3) To dial in the bike you have, check out the second video above.

4) Before you spend money on a bike and parts, use the rider/bike calculator at to model the fit of the bike. You can tweak the numbers for the frame, stem, bars and spacers until the imaginary bike fits you perfectly, then you can buy without regret. Enjoy a free month of site access with the code FREETRIAL.

Have fun out there,


4 replies
  1. John Velo says:

    Hi Lee,

    I love the videos you have made with Alex. Great content.

    Though I wish I had seen the sizing videos before buying 2021 bikes in January. I have been out of biking for few decades and decided to get back into now we have moved home to the mounting bike capital of Australia, Canberra.

    458 registered trails in our area, how can you not get into MTB.

    So out I went for a new bike with my wife, bike choice was hard, not much around at the time so we both settle on Norco Storm model. I am 5’8-9″ ish, so the medium felt great around the car park. I really wanted a 29er, medium is the smallest they make in 29er. My wife is a 5’1″ so we went for an XS, her old bike was a small.My bikes have always gone for the old sizing of 17-17.5″ frame.

    After taking measurement, my RAD is around 780. My old bikes are smack on that distance, hence always loving them. I have managed to get my new Medium down to a 790mm. So its close. The first few rides felt a little odd as the reach it tight. But now it feels pretty good. You get over the back of the seat and hinge with out worrying about dropping he seat.

    But the reason for the note to you is that with both my wife’s XS and my Medium on the bike rack I noticed how close they are in actual size. Sure her bike is a 27.5er. Her reach is shorter, but the RAD is identical to my medium.

    I have ordered a few parts to make it a little more suitable for her. She is only riding single tracking with me so its not a big deal so long as the reach is good, she likes both wheels on the ground.

    But wow, XS to Medium have the same crank to handle bar centre!

    Once again, thanks for the great content.


  2. Doug Shapiro says:

    Thanks John for the “big bike” question and Lee for the “big bike”answer.

    I’d like to ask about an additional option for making that too big RAD bike a bit closer to neutral/RAD minus. I’m on an out of the box Transition Spur M, RAD 84cm bike and I’m a RAD 80cm. My stem is 50mm, bars 800width x 20cm rise, and 15mm of stem spacers.

    Would you endorse taking out the spacers to reduce the RAD? In addition to or in lieu of your other recommendations of reducing bar rise and stem length?
    Thanks again gents! Love the videos Lee.


    • Lee says:

      Shorter stem
      Fewer spacers under the stem
      Lower bar rise (I often flip them upside down, as on my Stumpy)
      More bar setback a la SQlab 30X bars

  3. Dave says:

    0 seconds ago
    BUGGR. just bought a used ORBEA Rise in L because at 175cm tall the L size chart ,170-185 says that i will fit. Did the RAD check and at 810mm I am 30mm too short in the RAD for the Large Orbea, and thats after I have fitted Riser bars with more sweep and a 40mm stem (down from 50mm_. Not a chance in hell I am going to make this bike work. Feels poor in slow turns downhill and alway missing the entry point and running wide mid corner. Sadly the Orbea size chart says the Medium maxes out at 175, so figured i had margin in the Large and the M would be borderline too small. Now I need to get out of the large and find a medium. Had I seen the RAD video I would have known.. great simple “piece of string” solution that I now have in my pocket, just 3 weeks late. To be fair, I have an 87cm inseam so I am all legs, just didnt realise how far off that would mean in MTB sizing.


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